COLUMN: Be Smart, Leave Politics To Politicians

Robert Faletra

The Channel Company’s Founding Partner Robert Faletra says that it never makes sense for senior management to weigh in on political issues.

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It doesn’t matter if you are in sales, marketing, human resources or especially senior management, it never ever makes sense to weigh in on political issues either inside, or especially outside, your organization.

Why is that? Because when it comes to work, your job is to advance the company’s position and help drive growth. Getting involved with political issues has too much potential to do the opposite.

In the case of senior management, succumbing to pressure among the masses of employees to weigh in on an issue of the day can have very damaging repercussions. And no one really cares what you think unless you are in total agreement with them. The best policy is to button it: Make it clear you are in the business of growing your business, and politics is a personal and unrelated distraction.

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My argument comes from seeing it go wrong watching some in my own organization do so and certainly observing it go south publicly with others.

The best example is Disney’s debacle with the state of Florida, which resulted from its former CEO weighing in against a Florida Parental Rights in Education law, which didn’t sit well with some Disney employees. Disney, of course, picked a fight with a state that has granted it a very sweet special status that saved the company millions of dollars. That status is changing and not to Disney’s advantage. Was it worth it? Are shareholders happy?

I was at a sales dinner one evening with one of my senior-level sales leaders in which he told a customer what he thought of a particular presidential candidate in no uncertain terms. The dinner went south from there. The customer had a different opinion. We didn’t get the business. Not because we couldn’t help, but because someone should have known better and never opened his mouth. The customer wasn’t happy, and it hurt the business.

A few high-tech CEOs a few years back weighed in on a Georgia voting access law they disagreed with.

When it hit the press, I shook my head, thinking do they realize that perhaps roughly 50 percent of their customers may disagree with them? Will feeling like you had to say something about the law be worth it if some of those customers’ decision-makers decide to look at other suppliers? All because you expressed your opinion on something that has nothing to do with your business?

Those examples are on weighing in outside of your four walls. But it can sting you even if you are in a position of power and you weigh in internally, as even the best intentions can go awry.

One executive weighed in innocently enough on the value of a historical civil rights leader and how his own company agreed with and emulated the same principles. Admirable? Perhaps. But within minutes the company’s internal message boards lit up accusing the individual and the company of not doing enough. Some of the attacks went beyond that and were inappropriate to say the least. Did it help advance the business?

My point in all this is we are heading into a presidential election cycle, and many people we meet in business will have strong opinions as to where things need to head.

But as individuals we need to remember we cannot control or truly influence what others do and think.

When it comes to business, our duty is to work toward helping our business perform at its best and maximize sales and growth. Getting into politics with a customer and often other employees always has the potential to go south. So why do it?

Yes, it’s true that politics affects us all personally and often our business as well. Be smart. Bite your tongue, and if you have to talk politics, do it with a very small group of trusted friends. But realize, they, just like customers, may not agree with you and just may think differently of you after everyone leaves the room.

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